Culpability in Marital Breakdown

Important: this is not a post for anyone who is in an abusive relationship. This is for ‘normal’ marriage crisis.
This is the hardest post to write by far.   When you’re already feeling cast upon the heaps of emotional rubble caused by your spouses rejection of you, culpability seems redundant.   For me it was like the tapes of regrets and self-condemnation were constantly randomizing through Seasons 1-8 and I couldn’t even press PAUSE.   Of course there is plenty of material to work with.    There is already a ‘regrets and self-condemnation’ script going on that is simply built into the roles we fulfill in life.  It’s part of our human condition that has the potential to keep us yearning to learn and experience more of what it means to live wholly within love – God’s unconditional love.  This script is different though.  This is your marriage; your safe place, the home of your earthly heart.   Your spouse is effectively saying that you are not enough and you are too much. The rending is deafening which makes your culpability feel overwhelming.    Finding helpful resources online was tonic for my soul, but the unhelpful ones were, well unhelpful to put it mildly.  It was a low point the day I came across a blogger woman berating any Christian woman whose husband was going through a mid life crisis.  Basically a “shame on you” approach.   My brain knew she was wrong, but my spirit was crushed.

Maybe my husband and I lived under a rock, but when our counselor suggested these TED talks, Brene Brown was a new name to us.   If she’s new to you too, or you need a refresher please watch these in this order:  Vulnerability and Shame.   Listen for her excellent definition of blame.   It’s hard, but keep this in mind for yourself and your spouse as you’re both in severe emotional pain.  It’s the eye of the storm right now, but storms do abate.

You are hearing a lot of this statement from reading, friends and even your counselor; “This is NOT about you”.   I’m going to take a deep breath here!   Please hear this as a hard fought truth (not the only truth of this crisis, but, a truth) that I came to through plenty of kicking and screaming.  I will say it for me, I don’t expect you to say it yet or ever, “It IS about me – I have contributed to this crisis”.   My advice is to go through the following process.  Step 1: write down deficiencies and hurts inflicted by you that you’re hearing from your husband.  He will keep providing material while he’s in this crisis.  Keep writing what you hear as it helps you sort through the confusion.  Step 2:  write down deficiencies and hurts inflicted that you know about yourself.   Some may overlap with his.  Step 3:  Talk about them with a counselor and/or good girlfriends and ask for honest feedback – you can not be offended by what you hear because you are asking with a purpose to change, to be an active participant in restoration.   Step 4: actively pursue God and ask Him to filter this list.   What really matters here?   What changes are right for you and in what order?   For me personally I feel like I have gone through rapid and significant change.   The joy I am experiencing now feels so good and can only be attributed to God rolling away my stones.   Sheer willpower will never go the distance needed, at least not for me.   I know myself too well to trust myself, but I sure am loving the whole learning to truly trust God piece.  I am being freed!

Personal story here.   There was one particular ‘next thing to work on’ that I was desperate to hear from God regarding.   I was in a sea of confusion on this one.   For me cycling is pretty important.  One day I hopped on my bike even though it was raining fairly steadily and I rode and rode basically telling God that this was it, I couldn’t wait any longer, and He was going to have to finally show up on this one.   He used the movement of my cycling, the beauty of the rhythmic movement, the euphoria that exercise provides my whole being, the stillness of soul that eventually comes from a long ride  . . . . He used all of this and more to distill a deep desire in me that I couldn’t wait to explore.   As soon as I got home I was researching on the internet and within a couple hours I had a well recognized program and even a related volunteer possibility lined up and the timing was perfectly aligned.  Phone calls, prayer, vetting with close family and girlfriends and voila!, I was registered and accepted for the program and volunteer opportunity.   The BIG surprise in this was to come nearly 2 months later when what I was learning became a topic of mutual interest to my husband and I.   I completed the program and learned lots via the volunteer opportunity.  Hardest learning I have ever done – insert a line of exclamation marks here! I’ve got plenty more growing and moving forward to do on this change and the other changes – it’s a continuum of course but a fair distance has been traveled!

Something that was helpful for me too was to make a life timeline.   As I made this timeline, I could plainly see how much my husband had done for me, our children, and my extended family over the years.   With that in mind, I also made a list of life events and changes that had taken place in our lives during the last 3+ years.   There was a lot there to chew on.    I have thought a lot about our reactions to these changes and that has been quite insightful.   There is no doubt that through this process I have come to realize how much our respective backgrounds play a significant part in the narrative of the marital breakdown.   Understanding this has been huge for me and is helping me with the continuum of change, and my part in the building of our new marriage relationship.

This book, Boundaries in Marriage, should be required reading for all marriages I think.  I actually need to read it again now that the dust has settled as I’m sure there is more to glean from this new vista.

My hope in this post is to be encouraging and yet realistic.   If you want your marriage to be restored, it has to be on different terms.   Your spouse needs to make changes too, but if that’s all that you can focus on then the process will be stunted and more damage will happen in the interim.  You can only change you!!!  If your spouse is a ‘Type A/make decisive decisions expediently person’ then you better get with the program pretty darn quick.  If you’ve committed in your heart to change as needed for you and your marriage, and you’re already in great pain, keep forging ahead.   This is a season of pain, let it all be opened, exposed and felt so it can begin to heal and be ready for newness.  I’d encourage you to read Revelation 21:1-6.   I love the phrase from verse 5, “Behold, I make all things new”.

Also, a new venue since my last post.   Marriage Recovery now has a presence on Facebook.  I’m not telling MY friends about it obviously, but feel free to tell yours if you think it would be helpful to them.   We’re a shy bunch out there, surviving this storm.   For the most part we sleuth around the internet without leaving a trace and yet now I’m adding my voice to the mix, albeit anonymously.    🙂

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